While openly carrying a handgun is legal in many states and municipalities, many licensed civilians opt not to buck the trends of "civilized" society by concealing their handguns while in public.
Therefore, it's no surprise most civilians focus on lightweight, compact pistols for maximum concealment. However—as discussed in the previous installment—while small lightweight handguns are beneficial for some things, they aren't without their disadvantages.
Nonetheless, those with a physical disability need to consider the importance of what Shooting Illustrated's field editor Sheriff Jim Wilson refers to as the always gun.
Backup, hideout or belly gun, no matter what call it this small, lightweight handgun is easily concealable, regardless of your seasonal attire or method of concealment. It simply becomes a regular part of your daily ensemble when you dress in the morning, and is worn regardless of whatever larger handgun you may choose to carry as your primary defensive arm.
Why the need for more than one pistol, you ask? The answer is simple: Just as law enforcement has learned the life-saving value of transitioning to a spare handgun on the off chance their duty pistol malfunctions during a gunfight, concealed-carry licensees can benefit from the same technique.
However, I consider the always gun ideal due to its steadfast presence (the byproduct of compact size, reduced weight and portability—all of which are beneficial, because it's always there). Best of all, its constant presence and ease of carry provide you with an instant-access firearm you can use to defend yourself as you fight your way to either a primary weapon, such as the home-defense shotgun or the security of the family safe room.
In fact, the home-defense application is where the always gun is most beneficial for those with physical disabilities. Most people believe storing firearms in various rooms and placing themselves a few steps away from a firearm in the event of self-defense situation is a viable self-defense solution. However, the fact of the matter is most able-bodied/nondisabled people won't have time to go an arm themselves when trouble strikes—much less someone who has to rely on some form of mobility aid, like a wheelchair. In contrast, the always gun offers a more practical (not to mention more secure) approach to the age-old, flawed concept of strategic gun-placement throughout the home.
Possibilities abound when it comes to selecting an always gun, ranging from classic Colt D-frame snub-nose revolvers like the Cobra and Detective Special, to smaller Smith & Wesson J-frame offerings in airweight or standard steel configurations, such as Model 442—including a variant that accepts moon clips for hassle-free, lightning-fast reloads, and the Model 638 with its shrouded hammer. As an added benefit, some of the company's snub noses even ship with Crimson Trace Lasergrips.
While some may view this as an unnecessary expense, a laser sight should always be treated as an alternative means of target acquisition. Its presence offsets one of the biggest disadvantages of the always gun's diminutive size—its short sight radius.
With features such as a lightweight monolithic frame, unique friction-reducing cam for a consistent and smooth trigger pull, as well as optional laser sights and XS-brand sights, Ruger's LCR has gained enormous popularity among the concealed-carry community. Of course, the ever-growing popularity of subcompact semi-automatics has spawned a plethora of worthy candidates, too. Each have benefits as well as shortcomings, but the fact remains—no matter if you're in the kitchen preparing a meal or lounging outside, enjoying a book and beverage, the always gun is your there-and-now alternative when retreat is not an option.